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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > Places > Places features > Climb Faringdon Folly

Faringdon Folly

Faringdon Folly

Climb Faringdon Folly

Find out the history of one of the local area's most curious structures, and when it is open to visitors in 2009.

Mere miles across the Wiltshire border, and just off the main A420 road between Swindon and Oxford, stands one of the local area's most unique historic buildings.

A Folly is defined in Chambers as 'great useless structures' and snidely referred to as 'Bedlams in architecture' they serve no specific purpose and yet who can resist them?In the 18th Century they were the equivalent of decking, a must-have for any fashionable garden, and in Wiltshire alone over a dozen of them were built.

Faringdon Folly

Climbing up Faringdon Folly

They had no real use and, as their name implies, fell mainly into the madcap branch of architecture built on a whim for the indulgence of the rich.

And what an indulgence. Forget garden gnomes, this was garden statuery super-sized... massive columns, obelisks, monuments and even sham castles.

In Faringdon, the town's landmark folly is a tower, a strapping 140 ft tower, which dominates a mound half a mile east of the town.

The "entirely useless" tower

The mound, known for centuries as Folly Hill despite being Folly less, must have been a galling oversight to the local eccentric landowner Lord Berners.

So much so, in fact, that in 1935 he decided to rectify the problem and get a folly for Folly Hill.

Faringdon Folly

The quick way down the folly...

Brushing local objections aside Lord Berners plumped for a functionless tower to do the job.

As he said himself: "The great point of this tower is that it will be entirely useless".

Handing the project over to his architect friend, Lord Gerald Wellesley, Lord Berners promptly took off on holiday. On his return instead of the gothic one-off he had envisaged he was faced with a rather more modest and sober looking tower.

With just the top of the tower still to be finished, Lord Berners put his foot down and had his gothic flourishes, octagonal room and mock battlements added.

With that the last major folly to be built in England was completed.

Painted Doves

On Guy Fawkes Day, 1935, to a fanfare of fireworks and the release of hundreds of red, white and blue painted doves the Faringdon Folly aka Lord Berners' Folly was officially opened.

All that was left to do was to add, a true eccentric Lord Berners touch, a sign at the top of the tower saying: 'Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk!'

Faringdon Folly

Faringdon's Pink Light

Today the well preserved, peculiar looking tower is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from Easter until October.

With fantastic views to the North across the Thames Valley and southwards to the Berkshire Downs, and on a clear day across five counties, the £1.00 entrance fee is an absolute bargain.  Plus with a new power supply installed, and currently sporting a pink light, it's a landmark that's becoming harder and harder to overlook.

Click on the link below for 180 degree view from Faringdon Folly.

2009 Opening times

5th April, 3rd May, 7th June, 5th July, 2nd August, 6th September, 4th October. Open 11.00am - 5.00pm. Adults £1.00, Children 11-16 20p, Children under 11 free. To arrange additional visits or to find out about becoming a Friend of the Folly, contact Eddie Williams on 01367 241142.

last updated: 17/02/2009 at 12:20
created: 04/04/2005

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